Why Someone Else’s Poor Planning Isn’t Your Emergency

I recently had someone send me a document that they needed to have completed right now for an important deadline they had. Mind you, they could have sent the document they needed months earlier, but they waited until the last minute. Normally, I wouldn’t sweat it — I’d fill it out pretty quickly and get it back to them. However, on this occasion I was in Panama on business. I was headed home to Austin for less than 24 hours, then I was off to Charlotte for business meetings at BNI Global, and then I was off to Necker Island for some downtime. They could not have caught me at a worse time — and they were completely aware that I was in the midst of my travels. Nevertheless, they emailed me, emailed my assistant, emailed my wife and emailed all of us multiple times over two days.

In between my meetings, I dropped this person a message and said, “I’m sorry you have a crisis, but your crisis is not my emergency. You had months to send this to me, and you sent it at the last moment (when I’m swamped) and you want it right now. No, I am not able to do it right now. I will do it as soon as I can.” This is an illustration of why, in my book, Who’s in Your Room, I write that sometimes, “no” is a one-word sentence.

Related: This One Personality Trait Sets Apart the Good Networkers From the Bad

I understand the above person’s frustration. She made a mistake in her planning. However, she then dropped that problem in my lap and wanted an immediate fix, despite my schedule. I’ve been there before and appreciate the tension of not meeting an important deadline. However, I did not handle it like she did with multiple demands for completion. Instead, I recommend you consider these suggestions if you find yourself in a situation where you are dropping your problem on someone else.
1. Start with an apology

Something alone the lines of, “I’m really, really sorry, but something has slipped through the cracks, and I am getting this to you late. I know you should have had it a long time ago but you didn’t, and that’s on me. I’ve attached it to this message. Is there any way you can get it to me by [X] date or time? I know this may be an inconvenience, but I would appreciate if you could make that happen.”
2. Copy any assistants and associates on the message

Do this once, not multiple times.
3. Do not harass family (especially if you do not know them)

In my mind, this is a more of a “never-ever” tip. My spouse does not particularly appreciate being pulled into something she had nothing to do with and refrains from trying to parent me.
4. When you get what you requested, make sure to thank them

Throw yourself on the sword again, and tell them you appreciate them helping you out by getting it to you as quickly as you could.

Related: How My $5,000 Student Loan Became a Multi-Million Dollar Business

And keep this final thought in mind: Someone’s crisis is not your emergency. And while you’ve got that inside your head, feel free to send this blog to anyone who tries to make their crisis yours. Maybe they’ll finally get the message.

For Savvy Entrepreneurs, an Economic Downturn Creates Opportunity

As COVID-19 wreaks havoc on a global scale, market-watchers are worrying about signs of another recession. Already, major conferences like South By Southwest and Facebook F8 have been cancelled. Airlines are grounding flights. Studios and startups are postponing film and product launches. Global stock markets have plummeted, evaporating $9 trillion and counting.

Entrepreneurs are asking themselves a looming question: How can I protect my business during these uncertain times? It’s complicated, but I believe there is reason for optimism.

Economists have been skittish about a possible economic downturn for months now, stemming from a different threat: a Chinese trade war. But even as recently as last fall, small business leaders weren’t overly concerned. In Sept. 2019, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce updated their Small Business Index, finding record-high levels of confidence among small business owners: A majority of respondents said both their business and their local economy were in good health.

More recently, Sentieo, a financial research company, studied the market effects of the coronavirus outbreak in detail. Their findings are remarkable. While most companies’ value crumbled, they observed that several companies have actually been thriving, including file-management software Atlassian, video-conferencing software Zoom, remote healthcare company Teladoc and exercise bike–maker Peloton.

“We realized that this is the ‘Work from Home’ portfolio,” the study’s authors concluded. “We are witnessing the markets pricing around large-scale adoption of these names due to the coronavirus.”

This is huge news—not just for investors, but for entrepreneurs, too. And I see two major takeaways from the Sentieo study above.

Related: Making A Recession Work For You
Opportunities abound for companies that enable remote work

Firstly, it is an ideal time to invest in or create a company that encourages remote work. The Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper, expanded on Sentieo’s data and found a surge of high-level corporate calls mentioning remote work in February 2020. There were more than 100 mentions across major corporations, compared with the previously single-digit monthly average. Meanwhile, Growrk, a company that helps transform home offices into proper workstations, officially launched just six months ago. After COVID-19, they’ve seen a tenfold surge in client demand.

This is not new—remote work has been a growing trend for years now. But fears of COVID-19 have rapidly accelerated its mainstream appeal. This may well be a turning point in the future of work, which is moving away from nine-to-five office hours and toward flexibility and independence. For example, COVID-19 sharpened the reality that risk mitigation—regarding pandemic viruses or natural disasters—is a built-in advantage for remote workforces.
Recessions make room for disruption

The second takeaway is that recessions can create tremendous opportunities for market disruption. After the 2008 crash, two unicorn companies were born: Airbnb and Uber. Both found ways to disrupt old business models by empowering everyday people to find new revenue streams, offering creative, viable, affordable alternatives to traditional workplaces. The gig economy has always existed, but the Great Recession rocketed it to a whole new level. People suddenly found themselves unable to rely on our broken institutions. Self-employment was the solution.

This does not apply to every company, but recessions act as “filters” that weed out weak business models and force leaders to adapt.

Related: How Entrepreneurs Can Survive the Next Recession
Learn to be agile with low overhead costs and a desirable product

During the Great Recession, I witnessed the downturn devastate most marketing agencies. Debt loads soared. Cash flows ground to a halt. Costs were cut. Thousands of people got laid off, compounded by a mass scramble for work in a tightened creative field. According to several estimates, ad spends in the U.S. dropped 12 percent; worldwide, the industry saw a nine-percent fall.

My company, Cimaglia Productions, however, saw a banner year. After a few frugal months, brands rebounded, realizing they still needed to create content. Unlike a major ad agency, I kept our overhead costs low and knew a wide network of creatives (many of whom suddenly found themselves out of work), which perfectly positioned us to work both with big agencies and multinational brands directly. Between 2009 and 2010, we wound up more than doubling our revenue.

Here’s what I learned: Large companies, overly reliant on hefty retainers to fuel inflated overhead costs, suffer in a recession. The same is true of many industries, including media, tourism, finance and construction.

But the dips don’t last. And when the recession fades, your company can be poised to take advantage of the newfound business.

It sounds contradictory to point out that recessions hit small businesses the hardest, while also creating fertile ground for startups. But both are true. The crucial difference is one’s business approach. For entrepreneurs who can weather the storm, the global market volatility does not have to be a threat—it can be an opportunity.

One-Step Vs. Multistep Content Marketing Campaigns

The following excerpt is from Robert W. Bly’s The Content Marketing Handbook. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble

When it comes to marketing, there are two types of campaigns you can run: one with just one step or one that includes multiple steps.

One-step content marketing is a limited campaign in which you essentially deliver a piece of meaningful content to your target audience. That’s it.

The classic example of a single-step use of content is writing an op-ed piece or letter to the editor for your local newspaper. You express your opinion in a short article that runs once. There’s no explicit call to action (CTA) mechanism for the reader to respond to. No list to join. And no expectation of receiving further content on the subject. The op-ed is designed to influence and educate all on its own. Of course, readers can write letters to the editor in response to your op-ed.

Multistep content marketing, more commonly used to generate leads or sales, typically starts by using copywriting to drive prospects to a piece of relevant content they can read and download. You can add more steps to the sequence to take your prospect from the top of the sales funnel to the bottom. Your goal is often to capture quality leads for your company, either to sell a product directly off the web or drive prospects to a brick-and-mortar location for purchase.

At each stage, the content can serve two purposes:

To increase conversions, meaning the percentage of people who go on to the next step in the sales funnel.
To educate prospects about your product, including features, benefits, and applications. This answers the prospects’ questions, so by the time they get to the bottom of the funnel, they know most or all of what they need to make a purchase decision.

Here’s a critical piece of advice: Never do a multistep lead-generating promotion—postcard, ad, banner ad, email, or direct-mail package—without a free content offer.

The content can be an informative booklet, white paper, or special report addressing some aspect of the problem your product or service helps the reader solve. You offer a free copy of this information to prospects who inquire about your product or service.

You’ll greatly increase responses to your direct mail and other promotions with the offer of a strong bait piece, such as “Call or write us today for a copy of our FREE booklet, 7 Ways to Reduce Energy Costs.”

Conversely, not having a bait piece will significantly lower the response rate to your lead-generating direct response promotions, whether the campaign is B2B or B2C.

To avoid only attracting people who want the free booklet, have both a “hard” and “soft” offer in every lead generation promotion. The soft offer is the lead magnet—for example, “Click on this link to download a copy of our free white paper on internet security.” The hard offer is “Call us now to arrange an appointment so we can discuss your internet security needs in detail.” Prospects with an immediate need will take you up on the hard offer, whereas those who don’t need your help right now but might be interested in the future are more likely to respond to the soft offer.

Years ago, I used direct mail to generate leads for business writing seminars I marketed to corporations. The main offer was “Mail this card for more information on my seminar, Effective Technical Writing.”

Then I got smart and added a P.S. that said, “Be sure to ask for our FREE tip sheet, ‘10 Ways to Improve Your Technical Writing’ ”—which was a reprint of an article I’d published in a trade magazine. As soon as I included this soft offer, my response rates doubled, and so did my sales.

Three Factors That Can Increase Conversion in Multistep Content Campaigns

At the top of the sales funnel, the first conversion is often a free content offer, with ebooks and white papers being popular lead magnets. The following are three things you can do to increase your lead magnet’s desirability and generate more downloads:

1. Titles. The title should capture the prospect’s attention, typically by arousing curiosity, making a big promise (such as solving a pressing problem), or promising to reveal useful information or important news.

2. Perceived value. Here’s a simple trick for establishing high per­ceived value: Even though you’re giving the content away, put a price on the cover. Very few content marketers know this simple technique, but if there’s no price on the cover, the recipient doesn’t think the lead magnet is as valuable.

3. Table of contents. Lead magnets of three to four pages or longer should have a table of contents (TOC). The chapter titles in the TOC should be written like bullets in sales copy to increase interest in the contents.